Friday, September 21, 2012

Shirley Chambers, the First "Dumb Blonde"

Was in the mood for something fun Wednesday night, so I popped in "The Half-Naked Truth", with Lee Tracy and Sofia Vegara Lupe Velez.   A fast-talking bit of fluff: Tracy plays a carnival barker/publicity hound  who, after a narrow escape from some trouble, decides to turn Velez into a "Turkish princess" (and manage her all the way to the bank).  Many twists and turns befall them (as you can imagine), none the least when the Ziegfeld-like Farrell (Frank Morgan) and his stage show get roped into the whole mess.  Silly and sparkling and very, very funny!  Good luck getting "Oh! Mr Carpenter" out of your head after it -- thanks again, Cliff Aliperti, for getting it even more firmly jammed in there!

She's got a big job for you.

Those of you who read FF + SS know my weakness for pre-Code platinum blondes, so of course I sat up and took notice when Ella Beebee (Shirley Chambers) entered the fray:

image borrowed from Immortal Ephemera

She was the perfect early-30s loveable ditz!  I just had to look her up and see what else she'd done.  No surprise then, when I discovered she was crowned "Hollywood's First Dumb Blonde".  Shirley began as a model in the late 20s, then became a Goldwyn Girl along with Toby Wing, Lucille Ball, and Betty Grable.  From there she garnered small, often uncredited parts in some pretty big-ticket films: Diplomaniacs, Dancing Lady, Viva Villa!, The Merry Widow, Nothing Sacred, The Women, and the role for which she was probably best known, "Belle's Girl" in Gone With the Wind.

She toured for a while in the early 40s with the USO, did some Broadway, and moved to television roles after returning to California in the late 40s.   Shirley Chambers died on September 11, 2011, at the age of 97.  


Cliff Aliperti said...

Thanks for linking over, so glad you enjoyed The Half-Naked Truth. Shirley Chambers was priceless in those nudist scenes, wasn't she? Did you notice the IMDb bio of her? Suspiciously reads like the plot of The Half-Naked Truth! I have a feeling Shirley may have gotten a bit confused in recalling her past to the bio author!

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

She was fantastic! I did see that in her IMDb bio -- did a bit of a double take, LOL. Figured the mists of time might've blent some movie plots with actual history. ;)